Dish Network Case Remains Intact in Colorado for Off-Duty Marijuana Use
House committee kills bill to expand lawful activity statute

by Julia Cardi

For now, a 2015 Colorado Supreme Court ruling about the reach of Colorado’s legal off-duty activity statute will remain the law of the land. Last Thursday, the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee unanimously killed a bill aiming to overturn the decision and would have barred employers from firing workers from using marijuana in their off time.

A law already exists that bans employers’ ability to fire employees for legal activity off the job. House Bill 1089 sought to clarify that the law would apply to state-legal activity that’s illegal under federal law. The bill’s language isn’t limited to marijuana use, but sponsor Rep. Jovan Melton has said it intended to overturn a 2015 Colorado Supreme Court decision.

In Coats v. Dish Network, the court found the lawful activity statute didn’t protect marijuana use. The decision upheld Dish Network’s firing of Brandon Coats for his medical marijuana use away from work. Melton previously told Law Week the decision seemed to hand the issue back to the legislature to clarify what ‘illegal’ refers to in the lawful activity statute.

Opposition to House Bill 1089 lingered from business groups despite the bill sponsors’ attempts to clarify that employers could still bar marijuana use for legitimate job-related reasons or fire employees for poor performance. Melton also tried to make clear the bill wouldn’t have overridden bans on marijuana use among federal contractors in Colorado.

To read this and other complete articles featured in the Feb. 24, 2020 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.